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Parish History

 Saragossa, Spain

"Our Lady of the Pillar"

It began back in 1797, after the French Revolution, when William Joseph Chaminade, an exile in Spain, took refuge in the city of Saragossa. 

Legend has it that St. James the Apostle went to Spain shortly after the death of Jesus to spread the Good News. Before setting out on his mission, he had spoken to the Blessed Virgin, who promised that he would do good work in Spain. 

His first efforts were unsuccessful, and in a vision, Our Lady came to offer him encouragement. When she appeared to St. James, she was standing on a pillar of jasper; which became the precious relic for the country of Spain. This pillar eventually became the real treasure of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. The oldest basilica outside of Rome, it was built on a spot that was the center of Christian activity as early as the third century. 

It was after praying often at this shrine that Father Chaminade conceived the idea of founding a religious congregation, the Society of Mary the Marianists. When in 1908 the Marianists built Chaminade College, the families in the neighborhood attended services in the chapel that was appropriately named after "Our Lady of the Pillar." 

Responding to the request of the people in the neighborhood, Archbishop John J. Glennon named Chaminade's Chapel a chapel of ease where Catholics would fulfill their Sunday obligation. It would be thirty years before the area would grow enough to where it needed a new parish. 

On August 1, 1938, the Archbishop consented to the formation of Our Lady of the Pillar parish. The immediate concern was the opening of a parish elementary school; it was started in the "White House" on Chaminade's grounds, staffed by two Franciscan Sisters. Almost immediately the ground was broken for a new school building. This was followed by the opening of the cafeteria addition in 1946. A year later the Sisters' Convent was built. 

The decision to build a church was made in 1953; and in April, 1958, the Church of Our Lady of the Pillar was dedicated by the Most Reverend Joseph E. Ritter, the Archbishop of Saint Louis.